When Andrew Hardin moved to Boulder last summer from central Utah, he had never used public transit before.

As a graduate student in geography at the University of Colorado, Hardin got a bus pass and began exploring his new city by public transit.

He began to wonder — with his bus pass and two feet, how long would it take him to get anywhere in the city?

In a recent project, Hardin, 22, answered that question by creating a series of interactive maps for cities such as Denver, Boulder, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and others.

Using data from transit schedules and OpenStreetMap.org, a community-driven mapping site, Hardin's maps simulate travel times using public transit or walking to everywhere within a city based on a specific starting location, date and time.

"These maps take the complexity of the RTD bus system and boil it down into a very simple concept — how long it takes to get everywhere else in Boulder, starting right now," Hardin said.

When a user opens Hardin's map of Boulder, for example, the starting location defaults to the center of the city. Typing in a specific address or clicking somewhere else on the map shows, using a color scale, how long it would take the user to get from the selected start point to anywhere else in the city.

The user can also change the date and time to get the most accurate travel times. A comparison mode allows the user to compare current travel times for two locations.


Hardin said the information is useful for people selecting a new apartment, for example, because it allows them to see comparisons of how long their commute to work by public transit or walking might be, and how long it would take to get to downtown Boulder.

While services such as Google Maps are useful for getting directions and travel time from one location to another, those services aren't able to show multiple end points at once, Hardin said.

"Google Maps does a great job of routing you from point A to point B," he said. "(My) maps don't necessarily communicate how to get from point A to point B, but how long it takes to get from point A to a lot of point B's. (My maps) look at overall access as opposed to a single time."

Seth Spielman, assistant professor of geography and Hardin's adviser, said the project illustrates why geography is very relevant in a world where most people have a map in their pocket at all times via their smart phone.

"We have all of these new kinds of information and spatial information and we can look at it on a map, but what Andrew did that's cool is something you couldn't normally see on a map," Spielman said. "It takes public information and gives you a new way to see a city."

Modern geographers are tasked with taking all the information gathered and presenting it in new and useful ways, Spielman said.

"It used to be hard to figure out where things were on the surface, and now we just kind of know where everything is," he said. "As a scientist, we're trying to figure out what exactly to do with it other than make some map."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or kutas@dailycamera.com.